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Crime: When Murder Runs In The Family

5 minute read
John Cloud

Really it’s a sad story. The Kissels are rich, or used to be, so it’s tempting to savor the elaborate murders and betrayals the family has endured as a long lost episode of Knots Landing. But five young kids have lost their fathers, and paterfamilias William Kissel, 78, has lived through the killings of two of his three children. Hong Kong financier Robert Kissel, 40, was drugged and then bludgeoned to death by his wife Nancy in 2003, and now the other Kissel son, Andrew, a 46-year-old real estate developer, is dead after being stabbed at his rented mansion in Greenwich, Conn. “I haven’t read the Book of Job yet, but I’m about to,” William Kissel told the New York Times on April 3, the day Andrew’s corpse was found.

Andrew Kissel once lived quite well–his 80-ft. Lazzara yacht has been valued at $2.8 million–but he was also, according to his estranged wife and other accusers, a drinker, a thief and a liar. The Greenwich police department isn’t saying much yet, which is understandable since its officers should be busy speaking to the many victims whom Kissel defrauded over the years. Last week he was set to admit in federal court that he had cheated financial companies out of millions of dollars. According to the Times, Kissel forged documents to pretend that he owned properties so that he could borrow against them. He also admitted pilfering millions of dollars from a Manhattan apartment building on whose board he once served. Kissel made good on that debt, paying the building back $4.7 million, which included interest. But he still had to face fraud charges in the case from the Manhattan district attorney.

When Andrew’s wife Hayley Wolff Kissel filed for divorce in February 2005, she found herself among an assortment of creditors vying for the couple’s assets. She charged in court papers that her husband shielded $111,000 from the sale of his classic-car collection (which included a $420,000 1957 Mercedes) by requesting that the checks be cut to a former employee. Obtaining her share of the couple’s assets “has been time-consuming, expensive, and frustrating,” Hayley Kissel said in a motion filed a few weeks ago. Authorities had confined Andrew to the couple’s home, but she said in the motion that he “had been belligerent, especially while intoxicated” and that he had been drinking in front of their daughters, ages 9 and 6. She also noted that her once high-flying husband was seeking alimony from her.

The Kissels were in the process of moving from the Greenwich home the weekend Andrew was murdered. Their landlord, Jean Wurtz, had filed a lawsuit saying the couple hadn’t paid the $14,300 rent for six months; the Kissels had subsequently agreed to move out by March 31. The movers didn’t actually arrive until the next day. According to the Times, the Kissels bickered in front of them. (The paper quoted Hayley Kissel telling one of the movers, “He’s going to jail anyway.”) Monday morning, when the J.B. Moving employees went back to finish the job, they found Andrew’s body in the blood-spattered basement. His hands and feet were bound, and his T shirt had been pulled over his head. There were no signs the killer or killers had to force their way in, police say.

Greenwich police chief James Walters told reporters the day after the body was discovered that investigators had interviewed Hayley Kissel and that she had been cooperative. The widow spoke only through her attorney. “She right now is focused on her children and trying to help them cope with the loss of their father,” says lawyer Joseph Martini. According to Martini, Kissel’s father asked his son’s widow to stay away from Andrew’s funeral. “She plans to make other arrangements so that her children can say goodbye to their father,” he says.

For a time Andrew Kissel and his wife also cared for Robert and Nancy’s three kids. Nancy Ann Kissel is serving a life sentence for sedating her husband with a doctored milkshake and then beating him to death with a metal figurine from the kitchen. Nancy Kissel claimed at her trial that her husband abused alcohol and cocaine and repeatedly forced anal sex on her, but she also admitted having an affair with a Vermont TV repairman. After Andrew ran afoul of the law, a Stamford, Conn., judge granted custody of the three kids to the Kissel brothers’ sister Jane Clayton of Mercer Island, Wash.

By week’s end, the whodunit speculation had turned to Andrew Kissel himself. The Times reported that Kissel had an insurance policy worth $15 million for the benefit of his dependents; Kissel may have believed that if he were dead, that money would be available only to his children, not his creditors. (Where the money goes will surely end up in litigation.) It would have been a near impossible suicide, but perhaps Kissel arranged his own hit? “If he did, it’s the most incredibly unselfish thing that anybody could do,” William Kissel told the Times. After so many selfish years, it would be a sort of noble ending for Andrew Kissel.

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